White Sox manager Robin Ventura said yesterday that Tyler Flowers will begin the season as the team’s starting catcher “unless something drastically changes.”
Josh Phegly, Hector Gimenez, and Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto are the other options, so it’s not as if Flowers had stiff competition for the gig, but he’s coming off a miserable season in which he hit just .195 with 94 strikeouts in 84 games while playing through a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery.
Flowers admitted to hiding the injury from Ventura and the rest of the coaching staff, but he’ll get another crack at the job as a 28-year-old. Once upon a time Flowers looked like a decent prospect and his presence was part of the reason why the White Sox let A.J. Pierzynski leave as a free agent, but Flowers is now a career .200 hitter with a .652 OPS in 192 games and has never been considered a particularly strong defensive catcher.
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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.